A day after getting Jonathan Quick back from a groin injury that had sidelined him all season, the Kings picked up another top goaltender Sunday when they acquired veteran Ben Bishop in a trade with the Tampa Bay Lightning.
And while that doesn't address the team's sagging offense, it does give the Kings arguably the NHL's best goalie tandem for the final 21-game push for the playoffs.
"Every game down the stretch is critical," said Kings' President and General Manager Dean Lombardi, who expects Bishop to be with the team ahead of Monday's game at Minnesota. "There's not a lot of room here for error. We want to take that out of the equation by making sure we have a No. 1 goalie in there every night.
"This, we felt, was going to give us the best chance to get in [the playoffs]."
The Kings sent goalie Peter Budaj, minor league defenseman Erik Cernak and a seventh-round pick in this summer's draft to the Lightning in exchange for Bishop and a fifth-round draft pick. The Kings may also have to surrender a conditional draft pick if they make the playoffs.
A finalist for the Vezina Trophy as the NHL's top goaltender last year, Bishop, 30, has played in 32 games this season, posting a 16-12-3 record with a 2.55 goals-against average, a .911 save percentage and one shutout. In an eight-year NHL career, the Denver native has played 263 games for the Lightning, Ottawa Senators and St. Louis Blues. He has a 146-77-23 record, a 2.32 goals-against average, a .919 save percentage and 19 shutouts and also played in the 2015 Stanley Cup Final.
But there's no guarantee Bishop will be with the Kings beyond April. He will earn $5.95 million this season before becoming an unrestricted free agent. However given the continued uncertainty over Quick's health, Lombardi said the trade was worth the risk.
"You're never sure how well a guy who's been out this long, is he going to have his 'A' game?," he said. "This is not an insurance policy. [Bishop] needs to play."
Playing in relief of Quick, Budaj is having a career-best season, having appeared in 53 games, going 27-20-3 with a 2.12 goals-against average, a .917 save percentage and an NHL-best seven shutouts. Cernak, 19, appeared in 40 games for Erie of the Ontario Hockey League, scoring three times and picking up 14 assists.
Lombardi suggested it was unlikely he would make another deal before Wednesday's trade deadline to address the Kings' woeful offense, which entered Sunday ranked 24th in the NHL, averaging 2.44 goals a game.
"The focus has to be on the players we have producing up to their capability. And then we can look at additions," said Lombardi, who reportedly has $3.3 million of salary-cap space available. "You're not going to get an [Artemi] Panarin or a [Patrick] Kane or [Alex] Ovechkin or anything else that's going to completely revamp your offense right now.
"The answer … has to come from within."
After Monday's game with the Wild, the Kings will fly 1,000 miles to Calgary for a Tuesday night game with the Flames, one of two teams they are chasing for the Western Conference's final playoff berth. The Kings enter Monday trailing both the Flames and the St. Louis Blues in the wild-card standings.
KINGS AT MINNESOTA
When: Monday, 5 p.m. PST.
On the air: TV: NBCSN; Radio: 790.
Update: The schedule-makers may have given the Kings (30-27-4) a break at the start of their important two-day trip since they will catch the Western Conference-leading Wild (39-14-6) coming off a bye week. Only seven of the first 25 teams to have a bye returned to the ice with a win. The Kings and Wild have split two games this season.